New Hampshire Will Pursue an Independent Accountability System - The Department Will Not Submit a Request for Federal Flexibility Waiver, 12/14/12

posted Feb 14, 2012, 6:38 PM by Bill Duncan

NHDOE press release:

New Hampshire Will Pursue an Independent Accountability System - The Department Will Not Submit a Request for Federal Flexibility Waiver

For the past four months, Dr. Virginia M. Barry, Commissioner of Education, has been meeting with a taskforce of local superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and other stakeholders to analyze the requirements associated with the US Department of Education’s proposal to waive certain parts of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. After much consideration and input from local leaders, the state has determined not to apply for a waiver under the conditions dictated by the US Department of Education in this round, opting instead to pursue the development of an accountability system that will meet the unique needs of the state.

“There is a near universal recognition that while NCLB has helped educators focus on accountability for all students,” said Commissioner Barry, “it no longer fully supports the needs of students or schools. New Hampshire has reviewed all the options and we believe the best course is to continue to develop our own plan that works for our state, our schools, our educators, and our students. New Hampshire needs an education system that works for New Hampshire students.”

Although the waiver proposal as offered by US Secretary Arne Duncan potentially gives states flexibility in 11 different areas of the No Child Left Behind Act, it also places more and new federal requirements on states, local districts and schools. One such additional requirement is the expectation of a state-driven system governing the personnel evaluations of teachers and principals. As defined in existing New Hampshire law, these evaluations are solely locally determined between local school boards and administrators.

During taskforce meetings the leaders of NH districts made clear that they are not ready for this large system change but are committed to developing a system that supports our teachers and principals to impact student achievement. The Department is already developing such a model to be piloted next school year with those districts that have voluntarily chosen to receive federal School Improvement Grants.

Another requirement is the assurance that the applicant state will continue to assess all students annually using the State’s large scale state test, the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), including those students recently entering the state with limited English proficiency or education. Last year, New Hampshire amended its state accountability system to first determine whether a student could read the test in English before taking the test. NH school officials made clear that they would want the same standard in a federal accountability system.

Based on the feedback Commissioner Barry has received from legislative, business, union, district, and school board representatives, the Department has identified a clear need for a better accountability system that focuses on student proficiency at every level that better prepares students for careers and college. Yet creating such a system will take longer than a few months, and it will differ from the guidance outlined in the current ESEA flexibility offer. Dr. Mark Joyce, Executive Director, of the NH School Administrators Association said, “School district leaders have been consulted repeatedly by the Department and have been involved in the decision-making process.” The US Department of Education has indicated that there will be another opportunity to apply for waivers later this spring. New Hampshire will continue working to create a system that will meet the unique needs of our state.

While the Department continues its work to create a system that meets the unique needs of the state over the next six to twelve months, New Hampshire will take advantage of a new federal opportunity to freeze its annual proficiency targets. This will allow the state to freeze annual proficiency targets for NH schools at the 2010-2011 levels. The goal will be to pilot the new system in the 2012-2013 school year, with full implementation in the 2013-2014 school year. New Hampshire will collaborate with the State of Maine on this effort, although the final result may differ based on the needs of each state.

New Hampshire will also carefully monitor the progress Congress is making towards the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, a bill that has been in place for ten years. All signs in Congress point to a new bill with far fewer federal requirements.

Commissioner Barry will continue to work with educators, parents, school boards, and legislators focused on strong, positive solutions for New Hampshire, bringing everyone to the table to ensure student achievement and preparedness for the future.